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Best Apple iPad alternatives

Tonight, tonight – it’s Apple iPad 3 time. We’re waiting with baited breath, pondering what the device will look like on both the outside (hardware) and inside (software). But as excited as we are about the iPad 3 and as confident we are that it’ll be another runaway hit for Apple, we know that not everyone is so enamoured with the shiny iDevices that hail from Cupertino.

We know that there’s several other tablets out there right now that are worth a look that aren’t Apple tabs. There’s devices we’ve seen recently at Mobile World Congress which we know will give some people more cause to celebrate than any iPad ever could.

So without further ado, here’s our top alternative tablets to the Apple iPad 3, tablets that are out now, tablets that have been announced but aren’t out yet and tablets that’ve yet to see the light of day.

Motorola XOOM 2 Media Edition

It would seem more sensible to recommend the bigger, 10.1-inch sized Motorola XOOM 2 as an alternative to the 9.7-inch iPad 3 as opposed to the smaller 8.2-inch Media Edition. Truth is, we prefer the smaller, more portable XOOM 2 Media Edition to its bigger counterpart.

With a resolution of 1280×800 (WXGA) crammed into a smaller area, the XOOM 2 Media Edition has a very impressive panel that’s going to be hard to beat by anything, Retina Display or no.

Secondly, we think that its size and shape make for a great fit. In portrait mode those sanded-off corners sit nicely in the palms making it perfect for reading eBooks. Likewise, in landscape it sits nicely for when you’re watching movies.

The rubberised trim which runs round the edge gives is a measure of grip and protection (no SmartCover required) and we like that the tiny screws drilled into the back give the XOOM 2 Media Edition a solid, industrial look and feel.

We also love that Dijit, which comes pre-installed, lets you turn your XOOM 2 Media Edition into a giant remote control for your TV. We’re less enamoured with the fact that some of the third party apps can’t be removed from the Media Edition – our only real gripe about this otherwise nifty little Android tablet.

That and the fact that Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich has been delayed ‘til mid/end of summer at the earliest.

Asus Transformer Prime

Our current hero Android tablet is the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, or the Transformer Prime as Asus is calling it now.

This super-powerful tablet-cum-laptop hybrid runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and is powered by Nvidia’s advanced Tegra 3 processor. A combination tablet/laptop hybrid, the Asus Transformer Prime comes in two sections, the tablet portion and the keyboard dock.

As well as giving you a full Qwerty keyboard, giving the Prime real lease of life as a proper laptop replacement, you get an additional 8 hours of battery with the keyboard dock plus a wealth of connections; a full-sized USB port and a full SD card slot alongside mini HDMI and microSD on the tablet portion of the Prime.

This means you can pop a USB stick in and transfer work files this way, connect a USB mouse if you prefer not working with a trackpad. Or if you’re wise to the ways of Splashtop and don’t mind putting a bit of extra work in, you’ll soon be able to play Skyrim (on your PC) via your Transformer Prime.

Whatever Tim Cook and the gang have up their sleeves, we’re willing to bet you won’t be able to do this with your iPad 3.

BlackBerry PlayBook

Maligned at the time of launch for not having a native email app (on a BlackBerry device? We kno rite) the 7-inch BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is easily worth a second look if you passed the first time round.

The stock browser is simply excellent, powering through image and Flash-heavy websites without breaking a sweat. The screen is both high-res (1024×600 aka WSVGA) providing great levels of sharpness and details and boasts great viewing angles, complimenting the browsing experience.

Thanks to the recent BlackBerry OS 2.0 upgrade, you can now take advantage of the new calendar app, web browser and RIM’s new unified inbox which aggregates information about your contacts in a clever and unique way. The stock keyboard has also been given a boost as well, boasting improved next word prediction that looks an awful lot like the Android app SwiftKey X for Tablets…

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Though not available to buy just yet, in our hands-on time with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, we’re confident enough about this Android tablet to say its interesting enough to be an alternative to the iPad 3.

Aside from coming with a large (10.1-inch) high-resolution (1280×800 WXGA) panel that ought to stand up to the iPad 3’s Retina Screen, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with the S Pen. This is an active stylus that’s compatible with a growing number of apps and services such as the excellent Touchnote for Android app. This lets you create digital postcards using pictures taken on the Note 10.1’s 3-megapixel camera (or pictures from the gallery or Facebook) and then hand write a message on the back using the S Pen. Though available for other Android devices it feels right at home on the Note 10.1.

The built-in S Notes app also lets you write complex mathematical equations into a text field which which can be quickly solved using the Wolfram Alpha ‘knowledge engine’ so it’s a viable study aid as well.

Powered bu a 1.4GHz processor, we’re not expecting the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 to out-benchmark anything quad-core but we think that the S Pen angle alone is enough for it to be considered a proper iPad 3 contender.

Huawei MediaPad 10 FHD

Huawei’s MediaPad 10 FHD is slim, very lightweight and powered by a K3 quad-core processor of Huawei’s own making. Though it’s not due for release for a while yet, what we’ve already seen of its graphics-handling capabilities is enough for us to get excited about its potential.

With an eye-popping resolution of 1920×1200 and some great viewing angles we’re confident that this’ll be able to at least hold a candle to the (supposed) 2048×1536 resolution of the iPad 3’s screen.

Huawei has surprised everyone by coming out of the woodwork with some impressive high-end devices this year. Pricing isn’t yet known for the MediaPad 10 FHD; given Huawei’s past form as manufactures of mass market white label phones (that are always nicely priced) we’re hoping that the MediaPad 10 FHD aggressively undercuts the price of the Apple iPad 3.

Amazon Kindle Fire

Supposedly in the pipeline for a UK release at some point, it’s worth not discounting the Amazon Kindle Fire as an iPad 3 contender. It’s cleaned up in sales in its native US, rocketing to the number 2 spot – though it’s a good way off of catching up to the iPad 2.

We’re hearing good things about the Silk browser, which compresses pages for faster browsing though we’re less enthusiastic about the Kindle OS running on top of Android. Specs-wise it’s virtually identical to the BlackBerry PlayBook – 7-inch screen, with a resolution of 1024×600 (WSVGA) a 1GHz dual-core chip but with 8GB of storage instead of 16GB.

A bleeding edge spec sheet won’t matter to some though; the Amazon Kindle Fire lets you browse the web, check emails and download eBooks, MP3’s and apps from its stores which is all some people want to do. And all for the fraction of the cost of an iPad 2. The sales figures speak for themselves.

Windows 8 tablets

It’s super-premature to tout Windows 8 tablets as ‘alternatives’ to the iPad 3 when not a single Windows 8 product has been announced.

But thanks to the recent Windows 8 Consumer Preview, we’ve got a good idea what to expect from Windows 8 tablets and its clear that there’s something big in the pipeline. We might not get to see it for a while yet but we can definitely expect things like Xbox Live integration, support for external mice and keyboards, easy management of all the files you’ve got floating in the cloud and hardware accelerated browsing with Internet Explorer 10.

Samsung and Dell, traditional laptop manufacturers, look to be on board to make Windows 8 tablets and Qualcomm, Broadcom and Nvidia are signed up to provide chips. Given what we’ve seen with the Asus Transformer Prime, Asus Padfone and Google’s rumoured intentions with Android 5.0 Jelly Bean, we’re expecting something along the lines of Windows tablets, phones, and desktops all running the same UI.

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